Some basic print / monitor matching problems


I’m having what must be a common issue and am looking for some advice.

Prints aren’t matching the monitor image. The deviations are specific and pretty predictable. Shadow values are printing too dark. Midtones and highlights look just right, and colors look right.

If I work with a test image, like a step wedge, both print AND the monitor image are having trouble with the shadow values blocking. I see very little differentiation between tones beyond 90 or 95% black. But the printer must be relatively darker, because prints seem dark relative to the soft proof.

I’m working with an NEC Spectraview monitor. I’ve calibrated and profiled with the NEC colorimeter that it came with, and with my i1pro spectrophotometer (new to me, but the previous model).

My target values are 100cd/m brightness, gama 2.2, 6500K. With the colorimeter, Delta E is around .85, and with the spectrophotometer it’s around 0.35. The spectrophotemeter calibration also shows a much larger color space … pretty much all of Adobe RGB. But it seems to be less accurate in the shadow values.

Printer is an Epson 3880 with OEM inks. I used i1 Profiler, with 1600 color patches. I profiled the printer with Harman Gloss Baryta paper and with Epson Gloss paper (for proofing). Prints on the two papers match each other perfectly.

I’m about to have a printmaker make some large prints for me, and hoping my proofs match his. If they do, then my problems are all on the monitor end. But I suspect I’m in for more trouble than this.

Any thoughts on where to begin?

Thanks so much.


100CD is way too bright. I run my Eizo at 80 having recently reduced from 90. I’m still not sure about 80 but it’s a lot closer than 100. Here’s a link to an article on calibrating NEC monitors: … traView+II

I use an Eizo which I calibrate according to the Eizo variant of the above article.

Thanks Jeff. I’m going to experiment with that. Still seems strange, since I’ve used 100 for years, but have not had this issue.

In your opinion is the i1 spectrophotometer better in all ways than the NEC/x-rite colorimeter that comes with the monitor, or is it possible that it has some weaknesses?

Paul, I couldn’t comment on the NEC colorimeter. I have a couple of i1 Pros which I use. From my own experiments and various fora, 100 is considered too bright. Even at 90, I wasn’t entirely happy. I have set my monitor to 80 now but have yet to do any serious printing. Good luck with it.

Hi Paul,

I had a similar problem with loosing detail in the shadows on my prints. I have Eizo CG241W and a i1 Pro to make my monitor profiles. What I discovered is that I have to always profile my monitor with very low ambient light.

I think what was happening is that enough ambient light was leaking around the measurement device to be effecting the readings at very low levels. In any case as soon as I started making my monitor profiles at night with the room lights turned off I saw an immediate improvement in shadow detail on my monitor and in my prints.

Just something to consider.


Interesting. Thanks Louie. I usually do it at night with fairly low lights in the room (but enough light to see easily). Are you suggesting darker still?

Fairly low lights should do the trick, but you can also throw a dark cloth over the whole business while it’s measuring. Louie brings up a good point. As a spectrophotometer, the i1Pro measures some 30 bands of spectral wavelengths. All this measurement introduces digital “noise” which is inconsequential for most of the color spectrum. But when it comes to shadows and blacks, there’s no light for it to read and so the noise sort of raises the floor for black measurements. It’s well known that spectros can’t read as black as certain colorimeters. So this can make a difference when it comes to these subtle shadow areas.

There used to be a real gap in the available instrumentation out there, but nowadays you can get very good results with an i1Display Pro. NEC is also offering their own self-branded i1Display Pro lately. Check to see if you have one of these “pro” models or if you have the previous generation of NEC device.

I have the older generation NEC colorimeter. As far as I know it’s an i1 display pro with a different set of filters and a custom paint job.

Any sense if this would be better in any way than the i1 pro spectro? The only thing I know for sure is that color is more accurate with the spectro … but color was always accurate enough.

If you have an older colorimeter, then it’s probably the i1 Display 2, not the newer i1Display Pro.

Color will tend to be more accurate with the spectro, but like I say above, the spectros will not give you the shadow detail that some colorimeters do (like the i1 Display 2).